Hawks aim to stop skid vs. injury-riddled Timberwolves

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The Atlanta Hawks aim to end a six-game losing skid on Monday when they host the injury-ravaged Minnesota Timberwolves at State Farm Arena.

Both sides dropped close decisions on Saturday. Minnesota’s 100-98 loss at home to Phoenix marked the Timberwolves’ second consecutive defeat and fourth in the last five.

They played without guards Shabazz Napier, Josh Okogie and Treveon Graham, as well as forward Jake Layman, all of whom were sidelined due to injury. Minnesota also missed forward Robert Covington, scratched for personal reasons.

Covington’s absence loomed on the defensive end against Phoenix, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said to the Star Tribune.

“He has great hands where he’s swiping it or he’s stealing it from them or he’s making it very hard for them to even get the ball up. They had too many clean looks and they touched the paint too many times,” Towns said. “It put us in a situation where we all had to collapse, and they were able to make those kick-out plays to the corner or to the wing and they put us in a bad spot.”

Covington averages a team-leading 1.5 steals per game. He has also been one of Minnesota’s more reliable complementary scorers at 12.9 points per game.

He is listed as day-to-day ahead of Monday’s matchup.

Atlanta dropped its sixth straight on Saturday, 119-116, against reigning NBA champion Toronto. Second-year guard Trae Young scored 30 points, and rookie swingman De’Andre Hunter made six 3-pointers en route to 26 points.

Hunter, averaging 12.5 points per game, is on a three-game run with point totals of 27 and 18 in addition to his 26 on Saturday.

Following a 135-127 loss to Milwaukee on Nov. 20 in which Hunter scored a career-high 27, Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce in his postgame press conference said it was positive “to see De’Andre Hunter really involved in that first half, … just getting rhythm looks. That was really the reason why we were up in the first half.”

Pierce also praised fellow rookie guard Cam Reddish, who missed Saturday’s game with a wrist injury. His 17 points against Milwaukee were a career-high, and the outing was his third straight double-figure-scoring performance after a slow start.

As Atlanta’s offense has found some more options behind Young’s 25.9 points and 8.7 assists per game, the Hawks defense has struggled.

The 119 points that Atlanta allowed to Toronto marked the fewest an opponent has scored during the Hawks’ six-game losing skid. At 117.7 points per game allowed on the season, Atlanta ranks 26th in the NBA in scoring defense.

Saturday’s game was the second leg of a back-to-back. The 128 points that Atlanta allowed in a 25-point loss to Detroit on Friday were the Pistons’ most on the season.

Behind Towns and Andrew Wiggins, who are averaging 26.4 and 25.2 points per game respectively, Minnesota entered Sunday ninth in the NBA in scoring offense at 113.4 per game. Wiggins is on an early career-high scoring pace, shooting 46.9 percent from the floor — 2.5 percent above his career average.

–Field Level Media

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